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Harriet L Hardy, MD: fighting man-made disease
  1. D F Salerno1,
  2. I L Feitshans2
  1. 1Pfizer Global Research and Development–Ann Arbor Laboratories, Ann Arbor, MI, USA
  2. 2Adjunct Faculty, Cornell University, School of Industrial and Labor Relations, Albany, NY, USA
  1. Correspondence to:
 Deborah F Salerno
 2800 Plymouth Road, Ann Arbor, MI 48105, USA:

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23 September 1906–13 October 1993, Country of birth: USA

A physician and industrial toxicologist, Harriet Hardy was a blazing force in industrial medicine. In a landmark study in 1946, she identified beryllium as the cause of chronic respiratory disease. In 1952, she established the National Beryllium Registry, one of the first registries to collect long term data on a chronic disorder

A tough taskmaster, she engaged industry and government in fierce argument, yet her essential impulse was practising medicine. During her 88 years, Hardy was a staunch advocate for workers in clinical care, writings, and court testimony. Just knowing Hardy was an expert witness, at times, persuaded plaintiffs to settle. She insisted on the difficult path of joint union-management decisions.

“…unless there is definite commitment of executive authority, government agency, industry, or academic institution, occupational medicine and hazard control cannot thrive.”

Hardy’s diverse studies included: anthrax, arsenic, asbestosis, benzene, beryllium, cadmium, carbon tetrachloride, coal workers’ lung disease, cyanide, lead, mercury poisoning, mesothelioma, pesticides, and radiation. She was among the first to recognise the connection between asbestos and cancer. Despite ill health, she lectured widely on the importance of fighting man-made disease.

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photo credit: Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute, Harvard University.


For keen observations, the authors thank Richard Chamberlin, Homayoun Kazemi, Barbara G Rosencrantz, Nancy Sprince, John Stoeckle, and David Wegman.

23 September 1906–13 October 1993, Country of birth: USA

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